Dr. Mohammed S. Swaray is an eyewitness to what can happen when hospital staff does not know how to help a newborn baby breathe. During one early morning in August 2009 in Liberia, a newborn baby boy was discolored from lack of oxygen. The hospital staff used all its resources to resuscitate the child, but the baby passed away.
“What we didn’t have at that time was the knowledge of how to use the equipment properly and in the right order,” Dr. Swaray said. “The area was very chaotic.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in partnership with national health organizations and ministries of health around the world, has sent volunteer physicians and nurses to instruct birth attendants on neonatal resuscitation techniques. With this training, attendants are able to save the lives of babies who have breathing difficulties at birth. To date, Church volunteers have trained over 53,000 Africans like Dr. Swaray in neonatal resuscitation techniques.
“By improving these skills and teaching them to others in the maternity centers, I know we are headed in the right direction,” Dr. Swaray said. “I thank LDS Charities for organizing this training that is so needed here in Liberia.”
Dr. Ryan Wilcox of Utah has participated in 10 such neonatal training projects across Africa and Brazil. He said that each person who is trained is expected to train an additional 60 to 100 persons.
“All trainings are provided to people who are not members of the Church,” Wilcox said. “One of the principal teachings of the Church is to help everyone in need. When we see an area of the world that needs help, we provide that help regardless of religion.”
And this fact is not reserved to neonatal resuscitation trainings. The Church’s humanitarian efforts also distribute wheelchairs, provide clean water, give immunizations and restore vision to persons of all faiths. Combined, these and other initiatives have blessed more than 46 million Africans since 2003.
The Church’s wheelchair initiative, which began in 2003, has resulted in the distribution of nearly 40,000 wheelchairs in Africa. Part of the wheelchair initiative is to train people to construct a wheelchair from basic bicycle parts. Sierra Leone’s Maligie Bundor created one of these wheelchairs for himself and can now move around easier in his village and go to school.
“I love having this wheelchair,” Bundor said. “I feel good that I have made this wheelchair in this country. That’s a big thing. I’m proud of it. The last time I went into my village my father asked me where I got this wheelchair from. I said, ‘This wheelchair is made by myself.’”
Clean water projects
The Church’s clean water projects in Africa have helped people in places such as Sierra Leone, the central African city of Luputa and the Congolese villages Tshiabobo, Mafumba, Kasha and Ibola. These projects have blessed the lives of nearly four million Africans since 2003.
“Good clean water, like the water Latter-day Saint Charities is providing for the villages, has brought remarkable changes in their lives in terms of health,” said Sierra Leone native Mustapha Turay. “If I could speak for the people of Sierra Leone, I would say a big ‘thank you’ to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for blessing our lives, for coming to our aid at the most needed time, for saving lives, for saving children who would have died, and for creating jobs for our brothers and sisters who are employed in this water project.”
In 2003, the Church donated $3 million to support a worldwide initiative with several organizations, including the American Red Cross and United Nations Foundation, that provides measles vaccinations to children in 40 countries. Over 42 million Africans have benefited from these immunizations.
According to the Red Cross, millions of African children have been immunized against measles, leading to a 92 percent decrease in measles-related deaths across the continent between 2000 and 2008.
More than 161 million people in the world are visually impaired, of whom 124 million people have low vision and 37 million are blind. Up to 75 percent of all blindness is avoidable or treatable.
As part of the Church’s vision treatment program, volunteer ophthalmologists assist medical care providers around the world with training and equipment to treat simple vision problems. This program has aided more than 130,000 Africans since 2003.